Christmas Has Lowest Car-Theft Rate as Criminals Wait

Christmas Day has the lowest auto-theft rate of the year in the U.S., as criminals spend time with their families and put off stealing until warmer months.

There were 1,432 thefts reported on Dec. 25, compared with more than 2,400 on peak days in June, July and August of last year, according to astatement today from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. It was at least the second straight year in which Christmas was the day with the fewest thefts.

June through August tends to be the busiest time for car thieves as drivers spend more time on the road. Those are also months when teenagers are on break from school and may have less supervision, Detective Sgt. Michael Stout of Tampa, Florida’s police department, said in a phone interview. That contrasts with Christmas, when more families are together at home.

“Even in the worst household, Christmas is generally still celebrated,” Stout said. “There’s a dinner or something, you go see your parents, you go see your relatives.”

Valentine’s Day, celebrated in February, had the second-lowest theft rate among 11 holidays reviewed by the NICB. Thanksgiving, which occurs in November, had the third lowest.

New Year’s Day had 2,228 thefts, the most among holidays. New Year’s Eve had 2,152. More people tend to celebrate New Year’s outside their home, Stout said, meaning there’s potentially more opportunity to steal a car.

“A lot of time a thief feels more comfortable in a parking lot full of cars than he would, say, coming into your car port or your yard,” he said.

Summer Weather

June 1 had the highest number of reported vehicle thefts, with 2,579, followed by July 23 and Aug. 1, according to the NICB. August was the month with the most travel on U.S. roads from 2011 through 2013, according to Federal Highway Administration data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There’s just much more travel in the summer months, and the fact that school is out, a lot of families are traveling around,” Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for NICB, said in a telephone interview. “And the weather. All of that stuff is a factor, not just in auto theft but in most crimes, too.”

Motorists should make sure to park in well-lit areas while they’re holiday shopping, the NICB said. Drivers also shouldn’t leave anything valuable visible inside and should take care to lock their car before leaving it. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Allstate Corp. are the two largest U.S. auto insurers.

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